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A boy screamed: 'My mother is dead and my father is dead'

I have just come from Dubai where I live. I am alone at home with my mom who is a heart patient. I hear a sound that resembled firecrackers

The first one goes. The second goes.

I think: Why do these people burst crackers in India so much?

It goes tak-tak-tak and it sounds just like firecrackers and there is a cricket match going on and India is winning and I am watching.

But the fourth sound is significant. Because it is accompanied by shattering glass. I look out and I see smoke. This is not firecrackers. This is an explosion.

After a while my brother Dharmesh calls me. He says there is a problem at Leopold Cafe at Colaba and the Taj Mahal Palace hotel and that some terrorists are on the loose. And he mentions the incident nearby (which later turns out to be Nariman House that people variously call Khabad or Chabar or Chawla House!)

He suggests we move out. But my mother is stubborn. She says she does not want to move. I am still debating with her what to do -- to stay or move.

The building's liftman comes up and says that everyone is evacuating the building and going to Colaba Court opposite. We are still debating. At 10.30 I force my mom to go to Colaba Court. But that is herd instinct and everyone is rushing there. That was mistake No 1. On hindsight it was a risky thing to have done that because it put us right in the line of fire.

There is a lot of bon homie at Colaba Court. People I have not met in 10 to 15 years suggest we come to their house, no problem. There are quite a few families and lots of old ladies at this rear flat on the ground floor. But mom starts getting perturbed. Her leg is aching. She begins to feel uncomfortable in the house. And there is no water. It seems quiet and you know the attitude in Mumbai (the hurry to get back to normal) so we cross into the line of firing to move back at 1 am to Prem Bhavan (Mistake 2). And we go to sleep.

I forgot to add: At night when we were at Colaba Court I heard this boy screaming outside, "My mother is dead and my father is dead (Salim Harawala and Maria Harawala of Faridoon Court were killed in the crossfire. Their son Mohammed narrowly escaped). That was at 11.30. Gradually, fear is building up. None of us want to peep out. A friend of mine says people are being shot at. I want to open the door and ask. But there is so much fear. We don't open the door. And Pappu (the only young person with me that night) and I decide not mention to the ladies that someone was shot.

But after while there is so much quiet and calm. No sound of gunfire. Not a bit of any sound. So we move back.

Image: A commando during the seige of Nariman House | Photograph: Arun Patil

Also see: 'We want to celebrate what's right in India'
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